When the lights went down at The Orpheum Saturday night, Jack Johnson walked out alone to a stage filled with instruments. The quintessential “guy with a guitar at a bonfire,” he started his sold-out show as just that. Well, minus the bonfire.
Johnson started his set with “Do You Remember,” which he called one of his “happier songs,” taken from his 2005 release, In Between Dreams. He followed that one up with one of his “most cynical songs” from the same album, “Good People.” The crowd knew every word and sang along as though they were in kindergarten. It was inspiring.
The dedication and passion Johnson’s fans clearly have for him is undeniable, and understandably so. He was so personable and friendly it really did feel as though each of us in the audience was sitting right next to him. The comfort was in the simplicity of his presentation. He sat on a plain wooden stool next to a plain yet elegant wooden table that held his water and tea. No frills. Just good songwriting and a great performance.
When the band joined him a few songs later, the party really started. The rhythm section was perfect, keeping the audience grooving and bouncing for the rest of the night, while his keyboardist jumped between piano, organ, vibes, accordion, and even lead vocals.
The friendly and joking nature of the show continued when Johnson began playing songs he left on a girl’s answering machine at one point. The tracks were funny and humanizing, but during one of them, he could hear people chatting over songs they didn’t recognize, to which he gave a quick, “Please stop talking.” This was a simple and smart reminder to the audience to enjoy the show and be in the moment, themes that run throughout his music.
The fun continued through the truly well-thought-out set. It’s hard to tell sometimes if solos and jam sections are planned or spontaneous, but Johnson and his band injected amazing musical transitions and breaks into the songs the crowd was already familiar with. In the middle of his hit “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing,” they even sang a quick verse of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed.”
Johnson would also introduce the band members for short solos. The bassist rapped in one song while someone he called “Money Mark” played the melodica. One song even had a psych-rock jam section. This show was one surprise after another.
He then brought on opening act Bahamas so their guitarist and band leader could solo over a few songs while his singers backed up vocally. Bahamas came back out later for the encore and finale along with Paula Fuga, whom Johnson called his father’s favorite singer.” She is a bit of a Hawaiian legend. He dedicated a song with her to his late father and to his friends that were in the audience.
The show closed with literally every performer from the evening on stage singing and playing. They did a full rendition of Johnson’s hit “Better Together” with the entire audience singing along as though we were sitting around a campfire. It was a very communal moment during which everyone really was a part of the show. The last song was “Home,” which Johnson played as a thank you to everyone for making another stop on the road a place to be comfortable. He mentioned the struggles of touring life and how being around good people is what makes such a crazy way of living bearable and grounding.
I never imagined how much I would enjoy a Jack Johnson show. It was so much fun, and everyone had an amazing time. His newest album, From Here To Now To You, is a really fun listen and was well-performed. It was a great night and turned me from a casual listener to a fan.
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